How do you love an imperfect body?
I’ve spent hours lecturing people about exactly this. Days writing about it. Weeks, months even, thinking about it. A decade immersed in the idea that there is no wrong way to have a body, that fat bodies are good bodies, that my fat body in particular is beautiful, desirable, a deeply joyful vessel for this thing that is my heart and mind and soul.
I still don’t know the answer to this question.
I still struggle. Still have moments, or days, or weeks of wishing that this body was different.
Right now I am convinced that I’d be happier if I were just a little bit smaller. Just a little more Coke bottle, a little less… whatever shape I am now.
This isn’t a confession. Or maybe it is. But that’s not what I’m trying to do.
How do I love myself when loving my imperfect body is hard?
These days eating a meal is like playing Russian roulette with my insides. I’ll be eating a salad, or a sandwich, or a juicy ass burger with thick cut bacon, sharp cheddar cheese, and BBQ sauce, and minutes later it’s like something tripped a landmine on its way down my gastrointestinal tract. Doubled over in pain, I’ll run to the bathroom where I sit in agony until the pain (and the poop) subsides.
I have IBS, or at least, that’s what I think it is. No doctor has been particularly helpful, prescribing me only heartburn medication and screening me for some virus or bacteria that only Southern Californians are exposed to (and that I do not have).
Sometimes eating very carefully helps. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what the fuck I eat. I wake up in a cold sweat, a feeling like a heavy stone soaked in poison taking up residence in my chest. When I’m getting ready for work I brush my teeth and accidentally gag and then I can’t help it, I’m vomiting straight acid.
Garlic, onions, and brussels sprouts, some of my most favorite foods, feel like a knife being twisted over and over until it doesn’t anymore, and I vow never to eat again.
Sometimes it’s easier not to eat.
When I was 23 and downing laxatives and obsessing over Weight Watchers points in order to lose weight, I had similar feelings. Sometimes it was just easier to not eat.
So I don’t think it’s any coincidence that my stomach being the site of physical pain has returned me to thoughts of my stomach as a site for emotional pain. When the twisty knife feeling is more than I can take I find myself wishing that I could just have no belly at all. I wouldn’t be in pain, and I’d be hotter.
I’m not presenting this as fact. Just the facts of my brain and my feelings, still under the influence of two decades worth of self-hatred, of dieting, of cultural messages and friends and boys I had crushes on all telling me, directly or indirectly, that I’d be better if I were thinner.
I was 10 when I first fantasized about taking a knife to my belly, about slicing away the fat and becoming a “pretty” girl.
I don’t have that fantasy anymore, haven’t had it since I quit dieting and devoted myself to fat liberation when I moved to San Diego 10 years ago. So it’s kind of ironic that the knife has found its way back to me through other means, twisting up my insides whenever I accidentally eat garlic aioli or find myself in some sort of emotional distress (which is, right now, often).
I haven’t been posting here much for so many reasons: in June my husband moved hundreds of miles away for a new job, I’m kinda finally writing that book I’ve been dreaming of forever, I restarted therapy, I’m working on passion projects that don’t involve this blog, and work has been particularly hellish. I am taking many, many steps towards happiness and that involves a lot of growth and a lot of cocooning while I make myself ready for what’s next.
So I have time. To accept and explore the bad feelings instead of pretending like they don’t exist. To figure out what is physically wrong with me so that I can address what is emotionally wrong. And to rediscover how to love my imperfect self, my imperfect body, and my imperfect but still precious belly.